The Food Lab at The University of Texas at Austin Awards $30,000 at Food Challenge Prize, Announces New Partnerships
On a sunny Valentine’s Day in Austin, Texas, The Food Lab at The University of Texas at Austin (Food Lab at UT) hosted more than 400 fans of food system creativity and innovation at The Food Challenge Prize Day on the University of Texas at Austin campus. Ten Acre Organics of Austin took home the grand prize of $10,000 and four category winners were awarded with $5,000 each: Aspire Food Group for Healthy Eating and Education; Revive Foods for Inputs and Production; Sereneti Kitchen for Processing, Packing & Safety and CitySprout for Storage and Distribution. Massachusetts-based Sproot won the People’s Choice Award, winning two scholarships for the Innovation Intensives program, a soon-to-launch executive education program from The Food Business School (FBS) at The Culinary Institute of America in Napa, California.
In addition to the new FBS partnership, The Food Lab at UT also announced a partnership with Barnraiser, a web-based crowdfunding community designed to power innovations in the food movement. Barnraiser created its first partner channel exclusively for participants in the Food Challenge Prize to raise awareness, funding and build customers.
The Food Challenge Prize was launched in May of 2014 and received more than 120 entrants. By November, the pool was narrowed to the top 20 teams who were each paired with food industry mentors. Those 20 teams, representing four states and four food system categories, presented in Austin on February 14th to an esteemed panel of judges and interested onlookers. Judges such as Elise Golan, director for Sustainable Development at the United States Department of Agriculture; Aimee Olson of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts; Caleb Harper of the MIT Media Lab and founder of MITCityFarm; Martin Berson, founder of Snap Kitchen, Jon Bassett of Silverton Partners, and others spent hours visiting each team before narrowing the field to the top ten. Those teams then presented three-minute fast pitches to a packed room.
The winning team, Ten Acre Organics, uses an integrated blend of aquaponics, greenhouses and automation to create what is called, “the most sustainable and productive ten-acre farm in the world.” They plan to put Food Challenge award money towards the construction of two new greenhouses.
“This first-time event generated tremendous goodwill and enthusiasm throughout the university, the city and across the country,” said Dr. Robyn Metcalfe, founder and director of The Food Lab at UT. “And the Challenge is intended to have an impact well beyond today’s awards – we are connecting teams to a powerful network geared towards continued growth. We look forward to seeing where all of the teams will be a year from now.“
About The Food Lab at UT
The Food Lab at The University of Texas (TFL) provides awareness of food issues, encourages and motivates students to engage with innovative food systems research, and provides support to startups that leverage university research and bridges the divide between academia and private enterprise. Founded in 2012 by Dr. Robyn Metcalfe and based in The School of Human Ecology, College of Natural Sciences at The University of Texas at Austin, TFL serves as a catalyst for experimentation and innovation in the global food system. TFL is a project of Foodmakers, a 501c3 non-profit, based in Austin, Texas. It has launched several initiatives, including The Miracle of Feeding Cities digital magazine, The Miracle of Feeding Cities documentary film, and The Food Challenge Prize. For more information, visit utfoodlab.com, visit on Facebook and follow TFL on Twitter @TheFoodLabUT.